22 March 2013

Embedded Images in SharePoint List Items

HelpDesk OSP logotypeThe Outlook add-on that connects Outlook to SharePoint is mostly used as a helpdesk application. But HelpDesk OSP can be used for anything you want to add to a SharePoint list via Outlook, and the team makes use of it for both support e-mails and bug reports.

Microsoft SharePoint imageConvert incoming e-mails into SharePoint list items
What HelpDesk OSP does is basically to transfer all information from an incoming e-mail, including formatting, attachments and embedded images, to a SharePoint list item.

Each organzation can decide how the e-mail information should be transferred to different columns in the SharePoint list, but usually the sender's name and e-mail address goes into two separate fields and the body of the e-mail is placed in a description column. Beside these, any other SharePoint columns may be used with HelpDesk OSP.

Bug search and enhancement ideas
The search for bugs and for ways to enhance the Office and SharePoint applications is an ever going process where all team members are included – and many of the users too!

For the QA engineers this is a full time job, but in our different roles the rest of us are also looking out for things that can be improved in the software.

The findings and suggestions have to be reported in a consistent way that gives a good overview and basis for continued development, and for several years we have used SharePoint for that.

As the team is geographically distributed, we rely heavily on our SharePoint intranet for sharing documents and information. We call the list a bug list, even if many of the entries are about product enhancements and not about bugs.

SharePoint list onlySharePoint list item
At first we used only a SharePoint list that was customized for what we needed to include in each report. This list has columns for everything we need to register, so when it comes to text the list works well.

The problem was the images. Images are often needed to give a better explanation to the problem or suggestion, but you cannot paste images into a SharePoint list item field. Images have to be uploaded, which takes more time.

SharePoint list + Outlook add-on
When you take a screenshot to use with a text, it is quicker to just copy it and paste it in an e-mail than to save it and upload it to a SharePoint item. Therefore we decided to use our own Outlook add-on HelpDesk OSP (where OSP stands for Outlook and SharePoint) with our SharePoint bug list.

Images can be pasted into Outlook e-mails, and HelpDesk OSP can convert those e-mails into SharePoint list items – with the images maintained right where they were placed in the e-mail text! This way we can add and reach the images much more easily that when we used only the SharePoint list.
HelpDesk OSP gives images embedded in SharePoint list items

Use the list in both ways

Now we can all add bugs and enhancement suggestions in two ways: either we add them directly in the SharePoint list, or we send an e-mail to and add a certain code in the subject. Then our support mailbox knows that this e-mail should be placed in a folder monitored by HelpDesk OSP, where it will be immediately and automatically converted into a new item in our SharePoint bug list.

Link to list item
When the e-mail has been converted into a SharePoint list item it is automatically placed in a separate folder under the Sent Items, and a link to the list item is added to the e-mail. Therefore it is a quick process for developers and QAs to open the ticket and add their comments. They always have the support mailbox open anyway, to keep an eye on incoming issues and suggestions.

Microsoft SharePoint imageUser e-mails
As I said many users of our products have a keen interest in our development plans and come with their own input. These suggestions as well as reports about problems, should of course also go into the bug list.

That is managed directly from the support mailbox. The responsible team member just makes a change in the subject and forwards the e-mail to the support, and then HelpDesk OSP takes care of it. No more pasting of e-mail text into SharePoint lists!

Support too
We also use HelpDesk OSP for our support e-mails, but that is another installation that does not give links to the tickets in the converted e-mail. Access to the intranet is of course strictly limited.

With HelpDesk OSP we can work with the support cases in a structured way that ensures that all who contact the support will get a proper and timely answer.

So, as you see, just within our company we have found two different ways of making use of this Outlook add-on. Maybe your organization uses HelpDesk OSP in yet another way? In that case I would greatly appreciate if you were to send me a few lines and tell me about it!

Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions